Thursday, April 22, 2010


I proclaim my lifelong love affair with trees, today, on Earthday. Trees are part of my internal landscape, entwined in my childhood memories of adventure and exploration: Surveying territory from the perch of the highest tree in the neighborhood; Games of imagination in a tree fort.

While I no longer climb trees, here in our vast desert, cooling shade can be as exquisite a pleasure as childhood games once were.

Many trees like our ranch favorite, the Cottonwood, live longer than we do. Our state tree, the Bristlecone, is among the oldest trees in the world. Early explorers and frontier folk carved names and dates onto tree trunks, creating historical graffiti.

Today, trees make cities more livable. Las Vegas plans to double its tree canopy in the next fifteen-years. That’s a lot of shade on the horizon. Turns out parked cars need shade too, to reduce evaporative emissions from leaky fuel tanks and worn hoses. More shading trees in parking lots will be required.

You might say that every tree is a kind of air filter, helping us reduce our carbon footprint—the amount of carbon pollution our lifestyle creates. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide, and with water from the tree’s roots make a powerful sugar that it stores and feeds on, ……Releasing oxygen back out through their leaves.

We’ve come a long way from the handful of native tree species originally growing at the oasis that became Las Vegas. We’ve achieved biodiversity with introduced trees that have become common, and through decades of tree fads. Thirty-years ago, fast growing Mulberries were popular. Twenty-years ago, we were hip to Eucalyptus, African Sumac, Pines & Plums. Ten-years ago, we wanted Ash, Elm and Pistach. Today, the trees of choice are ones that are the most sustainable & drought tolerant with the least pollen, and recommended by the Southern Nevada Arborists and Master Gardeners.

We’re learning that “topping trees” tends to slowly kill them by scalding their interior. I know the heartbreak of losing a fifteen-foot tree that I planted as a two foot sapling, because it was pruned badly.
As we transition to turfless yards, we need to remember that turf once held water for our trees, and without turf, we need to adjust our drip emitters. We’re finally adapting our aesthetic sensibilities to the ecosystem we live in—the arid desert—to appreciating our native Mesquites, Acacia and Desert Willow.

Step into your internal landscape, walk among your tree memories and consider joining the great tree-loving fraternity. Hit Henderson on Arbor Day, April 30th for a tree giveaway. Or, turn out this weekend for Earth Day activities. Or stay home with Follow our link to American Forests’ green calculator to size-up your carbon footprint. Zoom into Nevada on our link to the cool tree maps in the “The Atlas of Global Conservation.”

Tread lightly this Earth Day, and acknowledge trees as valuable members of your community.

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